TheGrio Daily

The Definitive Ranking of Black Clothes

Episode 24

“Black people have always been at the forefront of fashion.” Michael Harriot breaks down the importance of fashion in the Black community by ranking the most important clothes that Black people wear. theGrio Daily is an original podcast by theGrio Black Podcast Network. #BlackCultureAmplified

You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] Why do Black people like clothes so much? And, you know, clothes have a special place in the Black community? And so we’re going to talk about that today. Welcome to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that can give you The Definitive Ranking of Black Clothes. I’m Michael Harriot, world famous wypipologist. And this is theGrio Daily. You ever see a white person with Air Force ones that look ragedy, look like they’ve been kickin rocks and playing, you know, charcoal soccer in them all day versus somebody at the club with a fresh pair of ones on? See, that’s the difference between Black clothes and white clothes. They’re the same shoes, but some times when Black people wear certain things, they are automatically transformed to becoming Black clothes. Since the first human decided that it was a little chilly outside and put together a dope three piece wooly mammoth fur outfit. Black people have been at the forefront of fashion. Looking cool is part of our expression and our creativity, so it’s only natural that we created our own culture of dress. And not everybody got, you know, different kinds of styles. But there are a few accepted norms that extend across Black culture, including what we’ve got to talk about today. Categories of clothes. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:33] Now, we have seen someone who was at the club who was clearly wearing, ya’ll know ya’ll seen this, church clothes. Or someone at Sunday morning worship who was sporting a going out outfit. See, we know it when we see it. So we’re going to help you with this by ranking the definitive categories or different categories of Black wearables, you know, Black clothes. From the highest to the lowest on the scale of importance. Now, unlike how people do it on those white TV shows, we don’t start at number ten, we start with number one. 

Michael Harriot [00:02:08] At number one, we have church clothes. Because the highest ranking of Black clothes, everybody agrees, is church clothes. Right. It’s the highest in the category of Black fashion because in spite of the name, church clothes really don’t have anything to do with church. The list of places you can wear church clothes include job interviews, funerals, court and all 50th birthday parties are mandatory church clothes events. So comedian Steve Harvey was one of the first entrepreneurs to take advantage of the college clothes phenomenon, where he introduces a line of 62 button shirt suits. Because people now where anything to church now is unlikely to even find somewhere where people wear church clothes to actual church but is still church clothes, you know, unless it is the pastor’s anniversary or another special occasion when a quiet march in. The Easter suit is the highest class of church clothes. Although niggas in Detroit are known for their all occasion Easter outfit, they will wear Easter suits to a construction job. But church shoes are the anchor of the church clothes. Well, see, they must be hard bottoms. Stacey Adams was one of the founding fathers of the hard bottom movement, and he still reigns supreme to this very day. A pair of Stacy Adams is basically the red bottom of church wear. In fact, I urge them to take advantage of the popularity of Cardi B’s Bodak Yellow by changing his slogan to these expensive suits. These are Stacey Adams, these are Jesus shoes. But, you know, he wouldn’t take my email, right? 

Michael Harriot [00:03:44] So number two is outfits, right? Like outfits are their own category, whether it’s a Beyoncé concert, a date or a cookout. Outfits are a collection of clothes, they’re selected in advance for a special occasion, and most often they include multiple pieces. The only way to preserve a outfit is to hang it on the back of a chair or to lay it on the bed until the special day arrives. And when you wear it, the outfit is generally taken to the dry cleaners, even if it’s machine washable. Everybody knows that there’s something special outfits that you just can’t put in the washing machine. You got to iron it on the bed. In the highest level of outfits are worn by people who attend historically Black colleges. Like if you went to a HBCU, you definitely know what an outfit is, right? Although church clothes technically come in higher ranked, a homecoming outfit actually outranks a Easter suit. And there is no greater class of clothes than a outfit that you wear to a classic. 

Michael Harriot [00:04:51] Now, number three is going out clothes. Going out clothes, they accentuate the physical characteristics of the person and they, you know, emphasize the person’s self esteem. They’re typically worn on dates. Sometimes you can wear to a nightclub and whatever person thinks they might run into the ex boyfriend or girlfriend, right. Y’all know, y’all wear, you know, these going out clothes, everybody got a special going out shirt. And women choose that going out clothes based on how it looks in a full length mirror in a retail stores dressing room. But unbeknownst to most women, they also choose men’s going out clothes and men’s leather shoulder bags. Because any time a woman tells a man I like them shoes, that automatically elevates it to going out shoes. Right. And it just how it works, right, is in an informal diagnosis, only women can elevate something from a church or an outfit to going out clothes. And every man got a special going out shirt, a special going out pairs. And the highest class of going out stuff is, you know, I’m sorry if this offends some people but the tiddy dress. I mean I didn’t come up with the name, but according to people who I spoke to on the condition of anonymity, a girl named Tanzania McIntire. Okay, she says that every woman has a dress that makes her breast look like they got 8 hours of sleep and had a nice, healthy breakfast. The category is not limited to dresses. My source also says that every woman has a pair of jeans that makes a booty look like she does 200 squats every night. I’m telling you, going out clothes is number three for a reason. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:27] And then number four, the school clothes. Again, this has nothing to do with the education system in general. School clothes can range from jeans and t shirts to button ups and khakis, and they are worn every day in public. And even if you don’t go to school, you got school clothes. Like most adults wear school clothes to work. A lot of churches allow people to wear school clothes to services, but not my church, we’ve got a dress code. Like the deacons will let you in wearing jeans and rubber soled shoes unless they are white, have thick soles and you are a board certified usher. But school clothes are very important because even when a teenager wears an outfit or church clothes, the schools on picture day, they do not cross over to becoming school clothes. The only exception to this rule is that under certain circumstances, an ensemble worn on the first day of school can be classified as an outfit making the first day of school outfit the top level of school clothes. White people with schools everywhere. Like they went to church. They wear them to bar mitzvahs. They wear everywhere. 

Michael Harriot [00:07:36] And number five is casual clothes. Now, I don’t really know what this means, because every time I see something that says dress casual, I don’t understand what it means to how do I dress casual? How the hell does a place that I go have an attitude? And even though it’s difficult to define, 90% of all women will wear a jean jacket over casual clothes and casual clothes, especially when it relates to women, typified by pockets. I don’t know why, but women love when they casual clothes have pockets and they will mention it like the designer discover a new chemical element. Oh, look at this dress makeup. Look at the pockets. And for me, in the linen shorts set it is the highest level of casual clothes. While the sundress for women is the highest level of casual clothes. 

Michael Harriot [00:08:24] At number six, we have work clothes. Okay, now this category might be slightly misleading also because it has less to do with your place of employment than it has to do with your dress habits. And it’s why I see work clothes. They include Dickies, McDonald’s t shirts, police uniforms, and anything that a person wouldn’t wear if they weren’t at a job. For instance, a pair of Black Reeboks or work clothes for all security guards and people who work at Applebee’s. But they are also all clothes for people who live in 1989. In fact, most people wear school clothes the world, unless, of course, they work in a high level position like a lawyer, senator, news anchor or a pimp, in which case they wear church clothes. And the highest level of work clothes for any profession is indicated by the adornment of the neck. The crew chief at McDonalds gets the wear next car. The supervised auto parts store wears a necktie. The officer in charge of murder investigations, he wears a badge around his neck and a manager at Walgreens they we are lanyard to swipe so the cashier can avoid your order. And in all Black high schools, all Black principals must wear a bow tie. I mean, it’s the law. 

Michael Harriot [00:09:31] Coming in at number seven is plain clothes. See, they also call outside clothes. This category is self-explanatory. The worst cardinal sin in the Black community is to have your mama catch you outside playing in your school clothes. Oh, boy. I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve gotten whippings because they didn’t have the outside clothes on. And when you become an adult, see your play clothes becomes house clothes. And according to the National Association of Play Clothes, 82% of play clothes are actually pieces of apparel that have been retired from the school clothes rotation. Therefore, all school clothes are eligible to become play clothes. And this is the important part if they are comfortable enough to take a nap in. See, you got to test your play clothes out by laying on the couch or seeing how fast you can run in them. Right. See, but that applies to everything except church clothes. Church clothes can never become play clothes. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:34] The last one, finally, is scrubs. I’ll just be honest. I’m lowkey jealous of nurses and all people who get to wear scrubs to work. They look comfortable as fuck. Why the hell are they the only ones who get to wear pajamas all day? I don’t know why, but this feels racist. I believe that one day in the future we will live in a society where we can wear scrubs at work, to school and while at play. I have a dream of going to Howard’s Homecoming and seeing the Ques stepping in camouflage scrubs with no shirts on. I dream that children will wear their designer scrubs on the first day of school and plumbers won’t show there butt cracks because the elastic waistband will hold their pants in place on their scrubs. I dream that one day little white boys and little white girls won’t have to wear polos to places where they should be wearing tuxedos. And little white girls won’t have to wear daisy dukes that sag in the rear. I dream of all scrubs society. Except at church. Jesus and my head deacon ain’t having that bullshit. Thank you for watching theGrio. Remember to download theGrio app. Remember to subscribe. And remember to tell one of your friends. And remember if one of your friends has on something inappropriate, hit them with that old Black saying, “What are those?”

Michael Harriot [00:12:06] If you like what you’ve heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app. Subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to 

[00:12:23] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Maiysha Kai [00:12:30] Hey, guys, it’s Maiysha Kai, Lifestyle Editor here at theGrio and your handy dandy Grammy nominated goddess next door, as I like to be known. Just so you know, your girl is not just behind the scenes editing and writing. I’ve also got a new podcast coming up every Sunday called Writing Black. We are launching on August 14th and we really hope you will join us. This is all about Black wordsmiths. That’s what we do here. We are storytellers because it’s theGrio.